Welcome to another exciting episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Join Cyril every Friday as he reviews the best (and worst) retro releases for the week.
It's a battle of rare versus misunderstood in this week's episode of This Week in Defunct Games! Up first it's Ninja Master's, the rare (and poorly punctuated) fighter for the Neo Geo. The 3DS also gets some love this week, thanks to Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Are either of these games worth buying? Find out now ...
What Is It?
Lost in a sea of Last Blade and Samurai Shodown sequels, Ninja Master's is something of a rare Neo Geo game. Made by the developers of World Heroes and Aggressors of Dark Kombat, this cult classic is full of fast-paced action and memorable characters. It also has a few gameplay wrinkles that set it apart from either of SNK's more established weapons-based fighting games. For one thing, each of the twelve characters (including historical Japanese figures) can switch between fighting styles at the flick of a button. This allows the player to not only use a dizzying array of punches and kicks, but also adds swords, clubs and knives to the mix.
Beyond the weapons, what you'll find in Ninja Master's is a more combo-focused fighting experience. With moves that are designed to send players into the air for easy air juggles, Ninja Master's feels a lot like a 2D version of Tekken.
For years it felt like SNK was ignoring this forgotten treasure. Ninja Master's was left out of American compilation discs and was destined to live a life of obscurity. Thankfully now Neo Geo fans will have a chance to own the game without paying an arm and a leg on Ebay. This may not be the best fighting game on SNK's console, but Ninja Master's is a unique release worth looking into.
Does It Still Hold Up?
Visually the game is all over the place. The character animations look good and a few of the fighters are memorable, but the models are considerably smaller and less impressive than other similar Neo Geo games. The backgrounds are also inconsistent. Some stages are full of color and interesting details, too many are barren and not much fun to look at. That's a shame, because there are moments when you can really see the potential in Ninja Master's. On the other hand, the gameplay is fast and loose, making for a much more accessible fighter than either Samurai Shodown or Last Blade.
Is It Worth The Money?
I can't believe I've gone three hundred words without mentioning the game's questionable punctuation. If you can look past the unnecessary apostrophe, you'll find a solid fighting experience with a number of memorable characters. Many of the game's more interesting elements have been pilfered byother popular fighting games (including the PlayStation 2-era Mortal Kombat games). This may not be a must-buy, but that shouldn't keep you from looking into the crazy history of Ninja Master's.
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo)
[ Release: November 22 | Price: $4.99 | Console: NES | Year: 1988 ]
What Is It?
Gamers are a confusing lot. We say that we want our favorite developers to take chances and make radical changes to their sequels. Yet when they do exactly that, we criticize them for it. Zelda II: The Adventure of Link is a perfect example of this flaw. Nintendo could have easily released another Zelda game that was exactly like the original, but they chose to give us something completely different. This 1988 sequel scraps the overhead camera angle for a much more limiting 2D side-scrolling perspective. The results are decidedly mixed.
The good news is that this is still a big, fun Legend of Zelda game. Link roams around Hyrule collecting items, defeating bad guys and solving puzzles. He does all of his traveling from the familiar overhead perspective. However, the moment Link enters a dungeon, goes into town, discovers a castle or crosses a bridge, we immediately switch to a more traditional 2D action game. Here he can swing his sword, jump over enemies and use items.
There are a few really good ideas and interesting moments in The Adventure of Link. But the older it gets, the more overwhelmed I am by the questionable decisions. For example, why does Link have the smallest sword imaginable? You would be better off using one of those miniature golf pencils to kill enemies than this dinky little blade. And why does it feel like there's a random encounter (which you can see coming, but can't do anything about) every few seconds? These battles only slow the pacing of the game down. When it comes down to it Zelda II never feels right, it's not a bad game by any means, but it's far from the amazing adventures that Zelda fans are accustomed to playing.
Does It Still Hold Up?
The Zelda series has this funny way about them where they seem to hold up, no matter how many years pass. The original Legend of Zelda is still one of the greatest games of all time, and who is going to dismiss the quality of Zelda III and Ocarina of Time? But Zelda II doesn't hold up, the ideas and "innovations" in this entry are either bad or completely outdated. Things that sound like they should be cool (like the leveling system) turn out to be more trouble than their worth, and the story in this 1988 game is incredibly disappointing. While I do like the idea that Nintendo decided to experiment with the franchise, there is something to be said for the fact that almost none of the game's innovations were carried over to other entries. There are still things to love in this game, but don't go into Zelda II expecting an adventure that is on par with the rest of the series.
Is It Worth The Money?
While I am no fan of the side-scrolling stages, this isn't the train wreck some would have you believe. The real problem is that the new perspective limits the Zelda formula in some really unfortunate ways. Dungeons are no longer impressive, items aren't as important and the storytelling takes a back seat to clumsy platforming. And yet, despite all of the problems, there's an argument to be made for owning Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. This isn't a bad or boring game, but it's also not up to the quality you've come to expect from the Zelda franchise.